Around 10 years ago, ITU said that "There are few recommendations that one can offer a country as advanced in ICT as Korea. Broadband penetration is the world’s highest." - and that still holds true today in 2013.
1. The Korean Telecom Market
South Korea has a driven telecom market dynamics. It has one of the fastest growth in smartphone numbers with around a 23 million increase in the span of 2 years, and according to ITU, Korea had the highest proportion of mobile broadband users that are active in 2011 - there were 88 in Japan.
So, Korea is obviously leading the global LTE market. A nationwide coverage only took 6 months, and as of June 2013, 32% of mobile subscribers are enjoying their LTE service.
a. Telecom market overview
According to a report by Sang-kug Kim from KT Economics & Management Research Lab, there has been huge investments in the broadband network. See the below graph for Korea's coverage expansion, speed enhancement and quality reinforcement.
Korea has the highest proportion of both fixed and mobile broadband users. As for fixed broadband, there was a total of 103% market penetration rate as of 2012, up 6% from 2009. There was a 107% market penetration rate in 2012 with regards to mobile broadband, up 11% from 2009.
2. Korea's LTE Revolution
a. Advanced network evolution
Korea has the fastest evolution of advanced network in the world. The transition to LTE was extremely fast in South Korea, growing from 29% in 2012 to 70% in 2013. SKT and LG Uplus launched the LTE service in July 2011 and KT launched in in 2012, totaling a 17.3 million LTE subscribers across the country (as at January 2013). That's about 32% of the total mobile users in Korea. The average data usage of LTE users was 2.4GB a month in May 2013. As for 3G users, it was 1.3GB per month.
3. Data Explosion
a. Mobile data traffic
There has been a huge increase in mobile data traffic in Korea. From January 2009 to March 2012, there was a 153-fold increase - a true traffic 'explosion' triggered by the widespread use of smartphones and unlimited data plans.
b. Fixed data traffic
Korea's internet traffic has increased 5 times over the span of 5 years from 2005 to 2010 where the annual traffic growth was a whopping 37%. By 2017, it is predicted that video will grow over 69% of all consumer internet traffic in the country.